This is an unprecedented time for all of us. There are many reasons to be stressed about the global pandemic, whether it’s a concern for the health and safety of loved ones, or a fear of job loss and lack of security. One demographic with their own set of fears is the breastfeeding mother or pregnant woman about to enter into motherhood. There is still a lot that we don’t know about a virus that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people, so it’s only natural to fear for a newly born baby’s health.
There are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Fortunately, there are agencies that have established some guidelines to put a few minds at ease. The general consensus is that it is ok to move ahead with any preexisting plans to breastfeed, as long as common sense precautions are being made.
The general recommendations for breastfeeding still hold true, regardless of a global pandemic. Breastfeeding gives a baby better immunity and decreases the right of respiratory infections if they get sick, while this has not been directly established with COVID-19, the underlying studies about respiration are a promising sign. In addition to benefitting the baby, breastfeeding releases anti-stress hormones into the mother’s body, helping combat anxiety and improve overall wellness. Cortisol, the stress hormone, has been proven to affect people’s blood pressure, immune systems, and cardiovascular systems. In addition to these reasons, breast milk is available from the safety and privacy of your own home, limiting your exposure to the virus and other potentially infected members of the public.
To date, the virus has not been detected in breast milk, therefore organizations like the CDC, WHO, and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine have joined the list of entities that agree the benefits far outweigh the hypothetical risks. The major concern is that respiration from the mother might potentially infect a baby. Therefore, the advice is to thoroughly wash your hands before holding your baby and wearing a mask during a breastfeeding session.
If a mother has tested positive for COVID-19, the decision about whether to separate her from her baby is one that should only be made by an experienced health professional. Experts agree, however, that if another and baby are able to stay together, the continuation of breastfeeding is strongly encouraged.